TRENTON, NJ – According to New Jersey's Department of Human Services, this past Tuesday was the largest single-day public distribution of naloxone in the country, with 16,000 packs of the drug, commonly known as Narcan, distributed.

The effort was part of the department's initiative to provide naloxone for free and anonymously at pharmacies throughout New Jersey.

Each pack contained two doses of naloxone nasal spray, resulting in more than 32,000 doses distributed in one day.  The department encourages individuals to carry naloxone and to be prepared to help intervene and reverse opioid overdoses.

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"Our goal is to save lives,” Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson said. “We launched our free naloxone day initiative to give residents a lifesaving tool and the chance to save friends, loved ones and community members.  New Jerseyans responded in overwhelming numbers, and I want to thank everyone who took the opportunity to get naloxone and is now prepared to help stop overdoses and turn the tide of this epidemic.”

According to the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, there were 27 deployments in May after a 26-month low of 10 police-administered naloxone deployments countywide in April.

As of June 21, there were 125 Narcan deployments in Union County in 2019, down from 316 in 2018.  Just 8.8% took place in Plainfield; 22.4% were in Linden, 13.5% were deployed in Rahway, and 12% were in both Union and Elizabeth.

NJ Human Services made naloxone available for free and without individual prescriptions at 174 pharmacies. More than 3,000 New Jerseyans died of drug overdoses in 2018.

"Individuals with opioid addiction now have a better chance of surviving an overdose and getting connected to treatment, thanks to the willingness of New Jerseyans to carry naloxone and help us tackle this critical challenge in our State." Commissioner Johnson said. “New Jerseyans have sent a message – we want to save lives.”

Pharmacist Chris Yanoschak of Boyt Drugs in Metuchen said he was “overwhelmed” by some of the stories people shared about losing loved ones and wanting to be prepared to try to save someone else. The pharmacy distributed 135 boxes on Tuesday.

“We had a high demand, about one person every five minutes,” Yanoschak said. “I wasn’t surprised there was a good turnout because there were no questions asked, but it has affected so many more people than I thought. We have lost some young ones in town so we had a lot of concerned parents too. It was a great way for people to try to help out.”

Pharmacist Chirag Patel of the Walgreens on Route 33 in Hamilton called the day a “unique experience.” The pharmacy distributed 168 boxes.

“I was happy to see so many people came out to help others,” Patel said. “I connected with numerous individuals throughout the day. Without asking, some shared their stories of their family and friends who died from an opioid overdose. Everyone was very appreciative of having our store participate in this event. I'm proud I was able to help families and caregivers and potentially save someone's life.”

Free naloxone day also was an opportunity to share information about the importance of getting connected to treatment.  Commissioner Johnson urged anyone needing help with addiction to call the State’s treatment assistance hotline anytime day or night at 1-844-REACHNJ. 

“Treatment works and recovery is possible,” Commissioner Johnson said.

The Governor’s opioid initiative funded this project and is also funding numerous other interventions to stop overdoses, improve access to treatment, support recovery and strengthen enforcement.  Examples of recent actions include:

  • Stop Overdoses
    • Expanding access to naloxone
    • Investing in educating communities about alternatives to prescription opioids
    • Reducing opioid prescribing
  • Improve Access to Treatment   
    • Training more physicians and advanced practice nurses to provide medication-assisted treatment, the clinical standard for treating opioid addiction
    • Changing Medicaid rules to make it easier to get medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction, including removing prior authorization requirements for this treatment
    • Creating new Medicaid Centers of Excellence for opioid treatmen
    • Providing treatment to pregnant women and moms, individuals leaving prisons, and other vulnerable populations
  • Support People in Recovery
    • Helping people in recovery find a path to employment
    • Assisting people in recovery with housing
  • Strengthen Enforcement
    • Fighting every day to take down the sources of fentanyl and heroin supply in our state

According to the NJ Human Services release, the Murphy Administration is committed to fighting the opioid epidemic on all fronts and, through the Governor's opioid initiative, will continue to take action to help New Jerseyans get connected to treatment and supported in recovery.